The phrase “all you can eat” has changed its meaning for the us since 2009.
Prior to changing our eating habits we were regular patrons of all you could eat buffets. We used to joke that we took the phrase as a family challenge since we would waddle out of these buffets so uncomfortable stuffed. It was obvious that if we were cutting back on sodium we would have to completely avoid the Chinese buffet because so many of the sauces are loaded with salt. What wasn’t so obvious at first was the soup and salad bar restaurant presented more of a challenge in avoiding the sodium. If we stuck with preparing our own mixed vegetable salad rather than the premixed specialty salads that they offered we knew exactly what we were putting on our plate. Unfortunately there can be so much sodium added to the salad dressings, as well as the soups, breads and pasta dishes.
Here’s a tip. Most chain restaurants post their menus along with nutritional information on their websites. Avoid the high sodium items by doing some research before you dine. Our local soup and salad bar restaurant’s website lists the sodium content in a 2 tablespoon serving. (Who takes just 2 tablespoons?) Here are a few of the high sodium dressings:
- French Catalina- 530 mg
- Italian dressing fat-free 320 mg
- House made fat-free Ranch 270 mg
We could just use a little bit of the balsamic vinegar and olive oil, but that is not our first choice for a tasty dressing. We have also changed to eating as much organic food as possible. This organic option is not readily available in most restaurants.
We now enjoy the delicious salads that we make at home. We make a large nutrient loaded salad the main dish for lunch or dinner. This is one of the many tips we learned from Dr. Joel Fuhrman, well-known author of “Eat to Live”. A generously filled large bowl of salad satisfies us. These are not simply lettuce, tomato and onion salads. These salads are chockfull of different ingredients. The advantage to mixing up a bowl of greens and vegetables is that you fill up on many beneficial micronutrients, eat lots of fiber and take in very little calories. Our dressings and protein sources (beans, nuts, soy or fish) are essential in making us feel full.
In order to keep it as easy and convenient as possible we have “all you can eat” ready and waiting to be used in a delicious salad. In the refrigerator we keep a steady supply of fresh salad greens: baby spinach, kale, arugula and spring greens. Most supermarkets offer these pre-washed and ready to eat in clear containers, making food preparation very convenient. In the crisper drawer we keep assorted vegetables and fruit. There are always fresh limes and lemons chilled. With all this fresh stuff in our fridge there’s no room leftover for junk. We always have fresh onions and fresh garlic on hand. We stock the following in our pantry: no salt added canned beans such as kidney, black, garbanzo, and cannellini; unsalted nuts such as cashews, walnuts, almonds, pecans, pine nuts; ground nut meals like cashew and almond, and no salt added canned sardines and salmon. To make dressings we keep several types of oil: olive, sesame and sunflower; an assortment of nut and seed butters: peanut, almond, sesame (tahini) and a variety of vinegars: balsamic, red wine and rice wine. These are the basics, and we add to this if we see something on sale at the market such as avocados, sprouts and seasonal fruit.
We very rarely eat out at buffet restaurants these days because we enjoy the meals that we prepare at home. The variety of mixtures we can creatively toss together at home that are fresh, organic and delicious are much more appealing to us. There are too many times to count how often we get ready to dig into a tasty bowl of salad and both agree that we would never find the assortment and combination at our local salad buffet. We eat well and enjoy it and we have stopped waddling!
- Eat a large fresh salad on a daily basis to provide the body with the nutrients it craves to stay healthy.
- Keep your refrigerator and pantry well stocked with delicious salad ingredients.
- Mix up your own salad dressings to avoid the high sodium content, as well as other unhealthy ingredients in ready made brands.
Here's a link to one of my favorite creamy dressings - Orange Peanut Salad Dressing.